The 12-month cycle and shipping software with known bugs

In a recent blog post, Deelip Menezes appears to be shocked by the very idea that a particular CAD company (no, not Autodesk) would ship software that contains known bugs. I thought he was joking, because he’s surely aware that practically all software companies with highly complex products release software with known bugs. As Deelip points out, those companies with 12-month cycles are particularly prone to doing this. There is no possible way any company can release something as complex as a CAD application within a fixed 12-month cycle without it containing dozens* of known bugs (because there isn’t time to fix them after discovery) and dozens* of unknown ones (because of insufficient Beta testing time).

Reading Deelip’s post and subsequent comments more carefully, it becomes clear that he doesn’t mean what a casual glance might lead you to believe he means. Deelip makes a specific distinction between …

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AutoCAD for Linux – another bad idea

I often see calls for Autodesk to support AutoCAD on Linux. Just like AutoCAD for the Mac, while I can sympathise with the users of that OS, I think a native port of AutoCAD for Linux would be a bad idea. Again, I think it would be bad for everybody: Autodesk, AutoCAD for Windows users, and most of all, AutoCAD for Linux users.

Why? First of all, for most of the same reasons I gave for the Mac port. Autodesk hasn’t just failed in the past with AutoCAD for the Mac, it has failed with AutoCAD for Unix, too. I remember Autodesk being very enthusiastic about the Sparc port in particular (AIX, too). I know personally of customers who were caught up in that enthusiasm and invested heavily in a Unix environment, only to bitterly regret it a few years later when Autodesk abandoned them. Would this happen again? …

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Why AutoCAD for Mac is a bad idea

There has been a fair bit of open discussion from Autodesk lately on the subject of a possible future OS X AutoCAD version. The more I think about this, the more I am inclined to believe that this would be a bad idea. A very bad idea.

It pains me to write this, because I’m very much a user advocate and I’m arguing here against something that some users have been requesting for a long time. If you’re one of those users, I’m sorry, but I think this is one of those cases when giving you what you want would be bad for everybody, and bad for you in particular.

Now, this sort of platform discussion often degenerates into a quasi-religious debate, so let’s see if I can head it off at the pass. If you’re a Mac fan who wants to tell me the benefits of your chosen …

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Autodesk’s Revit rebellion reaction

It’s time to examine how Autodesk has reacted to the widespread criticism of Revit 2010. Is Autodesk listening? To be more specific, is Autodesk’s Revit team listening?

The Good

It has been good to see extensive public participation by Autodesk people in various discussions in different places. The Revit team isn’t hiding. It is asking for feedback on the Autodesk discussion groups, the AUGI forums and its own blogs, and getting lots of it. Much of it is negative, but it is to Autodesk’s credit that I’m not seeing much in the way of denial, or demands that the criticism must be constructive. I’ve been trying in vain for years to convince some people at Autodesk that denial is counterproductive and that criticism doesn’t have to be constructive to be useful.

The sort of messenger-shooting that I’ve seen some Autodesk people do from time to over the years (*cough* …

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Revolt of the Revit Ribbon Renegades

I hesitate to cover this subject because my understanding of Revit is very close to nil. I’m going to cover it anyway, because it relates to the Does Autodesk Listen? theme that I’ve discussed here in the past.

Revit 2010 has appeared with a Ribbon interface, and many users don’t like it. Some well-known Revit users, including bloggers, former Autodesk employees and Revit founders, have railed against the new release. Autodesk has been accused of ignoring long-standing wishlists and pre-release feedback. Autodesk has (it is said) wasted precious development resources by introducing a badly-designed and poorly-performing pretty new face at the expense of solving long-standing and much-requested improvements to the core product. The main complaint appears to be that Autodesk didn’t do much with this release, other than introducing an interface that doesn’t work as well as the one it replaced.

All this will sound very familiar to …

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Network/standalone clash is confined to Raster Design

Autodesk has been in touch to confirm that the failure to allow a mixed network/standalone environment is confined to Raster Design. I haven’t yet tested this myself, but I’ve been told unequivocally that you can mix standalone and network license models for the major products.

Here is the official Autodesk response to the issue:

We are very aware of the issue currently relating to the co-existence of an AutoCAD SLM (stand-alone license) and AutoCAD Raster Design NLM (network license) configuration. This was not an intentional “change of licensing policy” as expressed in some blog posts this week, but an unfortunate side effect of updating our licensing technology for SLM (stand-alone) seats to be in sync with our NLM seats for all AutoCAD-based products. We can only apologize for this new behavior experienced by customers upgrade to 2010 version products.

We are currently pursuing a couple of options to rectify this …

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Should you read software license agreements?

Evan Yares has raised an interesting point about the insolvency clause in Autodesk’s End User License Agreement. Please read the whole thing, but the gist is that there’s a clause where if you get into financial difficulties, Autodesk will do its bit to help you out in times of trouble by taking away your software licenses.

This clause extends as far as making an arrangement with your creditors, which is a common enough phrase but can mean several things and isn’t defined within the agreement. So, if your cash flow is a bit tight and you have to ask your phone company for another month to pay your bill, you’ll be sure to stop using all your Autodesk software, won’t you? Never use it again, because otherwise you’ll be a thief.

OK, maybe that’s a bit extreme, but I’m sure it could be interpreted that way by an aggressive …

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Autodesk Assistance Program and the educational watermark

You have probably seen blog posts about the Autodesk Assistance Program (see the FAQ PDF), promoted as a hand-up for the less fortunate who find themselves unemployed as a result of the current financial environment. The Autodesk PR makes it clear that the free software on offer is a 13-month student license. However, the consequences of using such software are not made clear, so I’ll spell it out here.

If you use Autodesk educational software, you are not supposed to use it for commercial purposes. So, if you’ve just lost your position and were hoping to set yourself up with a few odd jobs here and there, building yourself up to a full-time drafting and design shop, don’t use the Autodesk Assistance Program software to do it. It’s useful only to help you keep your skills up to date, nothing else.

What happens if you do use …

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Guillermo Melantoni’s 3D blog

What a Mesh is another new Autodesk blog, this time from Autodesk 3D guru Guillermo Melantoni. You may remember Guillermo mentioning his forthcoming blog in my A gaggle of geeks video, and now it has arrived. You can also see Guillermo in action in several videos about AutoCAD 2010’s new 3D mesh capabilities on AutoCAD Exchange.

Guillermo is very, very smart, he expertly uses the products he develops (the building on the AutoCAD 2010 packaging was done by him), and it’s great to see him interacting with users in this way.

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New Autodesk blog for AutoCAD support

I’ve added a link to Without A Net, a new blog on support issues, technical solutions, fixes, and tips for AutoCAD. It’s run by Tom Stoeckel, global technical lead for AutoCAD product support. In my limited experience, I’ve found Tom to be a fine fellow with his customers’ needs at heart. This blog promises to be a worthwhile addition to the existing AutoCAD support mechanisms, and I commend Autodesk and Tom for introducing it.

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More on ODA, Autodesk and click-through agreements

Evan Yares has provided more information on the incident I mentioned in my last post. Here it is:

It was years ago. My guess was that the person who did it was just trying to spider the website pages, for marketing research, and didn’t realize he got all the libraries too.

In any event, I said hey you did this, they said no we didn’t, I produced download logs, they said there was no agreement and even if there was we hereby cancel it, I said if you want to see our libraries I’ll send ’em to you no strings, they said no thanks, then I just let it drop. Of course, I’m paraphrasing.

I wasn’t going to get in a fight with Autodesk. Trying to trick them into joining the ODA would have been both futile and dumb. I’d been trying for years to get them …

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Evan Yares, ODA, Autodesk and click-through agreements

I’ve always found it entertaining when the lawyers of CAD companies do their best to make their clients look like total jerks. The opening shots as presented by Evan Yares in his proposed ODA class-action lawsuit indicate that there is another rich source of recreational reading on its way. I’m sure it’s no fun for the lawyer-paying people involved, though.

You would think that Autodesk would be rubbing its corporate hands together at the prospect of the ODA being distracted like this. Or maybe not, if the bunfight throws up more little gems like this:

Autodesk had at least once gone to the ODA website, agreed to the click-through membership agreement, received their access password via email, downloaded each and every library on the ODA’s website, then denied they did it. (The ensuing conversation about this, between the ODA and Autodesk, was pretty interesting, to say the least.)

If …

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AutoCAD 2010 – Turning off InfoCenter

I generally avoid the still-awful Autodesk discussion groups these days, but I do hop in from time to time in the vain hope of seeing some improvement. In doing so, I occasionally pick up a gem, and that happened today. I think this one deserves a wider audience, so here it is.

In AutoCAD 2010, you can disable the InfoCenter toolbar by opening the
registry, and going to the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Autodesk\AutoCAD\R18.0\ACAD-8001:409\InfoCenter

In that key there’s a value with the name “InfoCenterOn”.

Changing that value from 1 to 0 will disable the InfoCenter toolbar.

Source: Tony Tanzillo in this thread. Note that the “ACAD-8001” part will be different if you use a vertical variant of AutoCAD.

Why would you want to do this? To improve startup times and reduce annoyance. Autodesk should have provided a better mechanism for doing this. The absence of convenient, designed-in off switches …

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Autodesk to more than triple upgrade prices

As reported at Revit3D.com, next March will see a major change to the way Autodesk prices its upgrades. All upgrades will cost 50% of the full retail price rather than the much smaller percentage that is currently charged. If you upgrade yearly, that means the cost of doing so will be about 3.35 times greater than it is now. Clearly, Autodesk doesn’t want you doing that, and would much prefer you to be tied into the Subscription program, and is introducing some subtle encouragement to nudge you in the right direction.

Here is the rationale according to an Autodesk spokesperson:

I can confirm that after March 16, 2010, a streamlined upgrade pricing model will go into effect–all upgrades, cross-grades, and retroactive Subscription fees up to three releases back will be priced at 50 percent of a full license.

We are doing this to better match the needs and …

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Some thoughts on AutoCAD Exchange

I’ve added a link to Autodesk’s new AutoCAD community site, AutoCAD Exchange. As with most things Autodesk, there are pros and cons. Here are my first impressions.

I think it looks good in a Vista-black kind of way. I know some of you don’t like the black look in software, but I do. The layout looks a bit cluttered and confused at first, but I’m sure visitors will quickly get used to where to find things. The site appears to be designed around 1024-wide resolution. If you have more than this, as most CAD users do, then there are wide areas of wasted space either side of the good stuff.

The front page is basically a teaser. To get to the useful content or do pretty much anything, you need to register or sign in. I don’t particularly like this, and it gives the impression (false or not) that …

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Bartz the blogger

Autodesk’s Executive Chairman of the Board (who has one or two other little jobs, too) has made a Yahoo! blog post in which she promises to kick a donkey, or something.

Yahoo! if of only tangential interest to me; I don’t particularly care if it thrives or if it dies. However, it’s good to see Carol communicating directly in this way, and it’s good to see her emphasise the importance of looking after the customer, placing emphasis on efficiency over innovation for innovation’s sake, and promising to do better at listening. Welcome to the blogsphere, Carol.

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A gaggle of geeks

Time to lighten things up a bit, I think. While attending the AutoCAD 2010 product launch in San Francisco on 5 February 2009, I conducted a series of micro-interviews with a collection of AutoCAD bloggers and Autodesk employees. One geek asks 14 other geeks if they are geeks; nothing too serious here. I hope Shaan enjoys my tabloid journalist editing job right at the end.

YouTube link.

Thanks to all the interviewees:

Heidi Hewett, Autodesk blogger
Lynn Allen, Autodesk blogger
Melanie Perry, blogger
Robin Capper, blogger
Brian Benton, blogger
Todd Shackelford, blogger
Jon Page, Autodesk person
Matt Stein, Autodesk person and personal blogger
Shaan Hurley, Autodesk blogger
Donnie Gladfelter, blogger
Ellen Finklestein, blogger
David Cohn, blogger
Mark Douglas, blogger
Guillermo Melantoni, Autodesk …

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Autodesk answers – 4 of 4

The final question is from metis:

Q: why is program size increasing and performance dramatically decreasing as hardware specs dramatically increase? as features “improve” and are added functionality should not be removed, and code should be streamlined.

seriously aren’t there any real programmers out there anymore? this thing isn’t written in java by a bunch of scriptkiddies (although 2009 sure is skinned like it was).

A: We made a number of performance improvements in AutoCAD 2010 over the previous release, and would appreciate hearing from you if you are encountering significant performance slowdowns with this latest release. If so, please send us details on what you were doing at the time, sample files if possible, and details on the machine you are using. This will help us improve performance further in upcoming releases of AutoCAD.

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Autodesk answers – 3 of 4

The third question, courtesy of Earl Kubaskie, is:

Q: I would ask why there seems to be so little cooperation between the development teams. Vanilla, Map 3D, Civil 3D, each seem to be separate little empires. ACA might be in there, too, but I don’t use it, and thus I don’t apply for the betas.

I would think that closer interaction (and consolidation of beta testing teams) would smooth out the process – and maybe help get Matt his wish re bonus packs.

A: This is an ongoing area of focus for us, and this year we are making further changes that we believe will help bring the AutoCAD family of products closer together. In this release you’ll see consistency between the user interface as well as some of the new features, such as hatch enhancements, that behave similarly across AutoCAD products.

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Autodesk answers – 2 of 4

In a comment on the first of these posts, Ralph G raised the possibility that these answers have been edited by marketing people. I have checked with Eric Stover and he assures me these answers come direct from the program managers concerned and are unmassaged by marketers. That ties in with the partial email trail that came with the answers. It also ties in with the impression I have formed recently that Autodesk is starting to open up a bit. That’s a trend I’m happy to encourage.

There’s one thing that clinches the marketing-interference matter for me. Despite Eric being on vacation when I sent in the request, the answers came back in days rather than weeks or months.

Enough of that, here’s the next question, courtesy of Matt Stachoni:

Q: Why haven’t the latest Subscription Bonus Packs been released for AutoCAD Architecture Subscription customers?

A: This year …

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